On this day in 32 BC Julius Caesar, Roman general and politician, was assassinated. Famously told by soothsayers to ‘Beware the Ides of March’, Caesar nevertheless went to the Senate on that day where he was due to give a speech. He was met on the steps by the conspirators and stabbed, we are told, a total of 36 times.
The conspirators acted because they feared for the Roman Republic and democracy after Caesar had been proclaimed ‘Dictator’. In fact their actions brought about the unforeseen result of ending the Republic, with the start of Imperial Rome.
Caesar had been highly popular with the Roman mob and in his will left lands and property to them. They were furious at his assassination and its perpetrators. Shakespeare recounted the events fairly correctly in his famous play.
Here is part of the speech by Marcus Antonius on Caesar’s death:
But yesterday the word of Caesar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there.
And none so poor to do him reverence.
O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men:
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honourable men.
But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar;
I found it in his closet, ‘tis his will:
Let but the commons hear this testament –
And they would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds
And dip their napkins in his sacred blood
Today I will try not to be a resentful person remembering past hurt; I will remind myself that by forgiving others, I am helping myself.
Photo credit: Detail from a portrait by Clara Grosch